Book: All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother
Author: Danielle Teller
Release Date: May 22, 2018
My Rating: ★★.5
Summary: (from Goodreads)
In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.
We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?
As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .
A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.
Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”
ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
2.5 stars for All the Ever Afters. This book took a while for me to get into, and I honestly didn’t know if I was going to finish it, but it really did start to grow on me around the 60% mark.
WHAT I LOVED:
- The idea. This storyline was unique and different and more realistic than any fairytale. Everybody knows that there is (at least) two sides to every story, and Teller did a great job at giving life to the stepmother’s side. Behind every piece of the story as we know it, All the Ever Afters provided logic and reason to explain it from the other side. Incorporating the beloved fairytale of Cinderella into this novel was beautifully and seamlessly done, and in a way that did not take away from Agnes’ telling.
- The grey area. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I love when stories, or characters, are grey. And there was SO MUCH of it in this book. I loved that every character was neither inherently good or evil – and this was even specifically pointed out in the book. Everyone has some dark and some light to them, and this truth shone through in every aspect of this book. No one was perfect, everyone had to live with difficult decisions, and real-life fairy tales are not always what they seem.
WHAT I DIDN’T:
- As I already stated above, this book took a while for me to get into. This is for a couple of reasons. 1, it started off extremely over-written with very formal writing. I get that this is supposed to be dating the story and indicating it’s status as a fairy tale, but this style is just not for me. It did improve as the story went on, and the storyline became so intriguing that by around 60% I was able to look past it. 2, if you like dialogue (which I do), this book is not for you. This account of the Cinderella fairytale is told primarily by Agnes (the stepmother), and is supposed to be a written account of her memories. Therefore, very little dialogue exists and it takes place mostly inside of Agnes’ thoughts. Again, a style of book that just isn’t for me. That’s not to say that this was done poorly – it wasn’t. Agnes is a very fleshed out, morally grey and supremely human character and Teller did a great job at making her extremely relatable, despite all of our preconceptions about the evil stepmother. I just need a little more dialogue to keep me entertained.
Like I said, I almost DNF this book but I’m glad I decided to continue. I really enjoyed the storyline, especially the last third of the book, and even though this style wasn’t for me, it was well done and I think others will enjoy it.